Alert #70

Support bill to stop raw sewage dumping: 
Your calls are needed!

Port Penn, DE, June 7, 2000. In 2000 the City of Wilmington, DE, continues to dumps hundreds of millions of gallons of RAW SEWAGE into rivers and streams every year. Wilmington has a ãcombinedä sewer system, meaning that the same pipes that carry ãstormwaterä from roof and street drains also carry ãsanitaryä sewage from toilets and industrial sites. In dry weather most of this goes to a treatment plantÐitself a chronic violator of itâs permit--but even a small rain overwhelms the system and raw sewage goes into the Brandywine and Christina Rivers, Silverbrook Run, and Shellpot Creek through about 38 ãcombined sewer overflows.ä These ãCSOsä discharge in Brandywine Park, Canby Park, near schools, a few feet up from the dock of the Wilmington Rowing Club, and in other places where children, especially, are directly exposed to the sewage. Diseases and parasites that can be transmitted include Typhoid fever, Dysentery, Cholera, Polio, Meningitis, Gastroenteritis, Hepatitis, Diarrhoea, Roundworms, Tapeworms, and Mononucleosis. The sewage also contains poisons such as mercury, lead, and PCBs, which can cause cancer and birth defects. Any summertime visitor to Wilmington can see children swimming and playing near these sewer overflows. According to official state advisories, it is unsafe to eat fish caught in these rivers. Nevertheless, there is a ãsubsistence fisheryä of mostly poor Black and Hispanic people who regularly catch and eat fish from these locations. See the Green Delaware web site ( for maps and photos of the CSOâs.

Eliminating the CSOâs is a Green Delaware priority. The City, under Mayor Jim Sills, acts like other irresponsible polluters: hiring consultants to write reports claiming the dumping does little harm, offering exaggerated estimates of the cost to correct the problem, and moaning about the poor financial condition of Wilmington. Meetings with City officials, and offers to work with the City to develop and fund solutions, have accomplished little so far. State regulators, seen at their very worst, tried to intimidate Green Delaware by demanding our membership list, and now propose a fifty percent increase in pollutant dumping from the defective Wilmington treatment plant (see Alert # 43). In fact, Wilmington has had budget surpluses in recent years, and hosts many rich and powerful corporations such as DuPont and MBNA.

A solution is in sight: A bill, drafted by Green Delaware and supported by Senator Dallas Winslow and 20 other legislators (some have not yet been invited to sign on), would prohibit CSOs in Delaware after Jan 1, 2008. Strangely, the key opponent of the bill seems to be Sen. Patricia M. Blevins, who chaired a ãCSO Task Force.ä (Green Delaware was not invited to participate). This Task Force, dominated by City and State officials, DID NOT recommend that the CSOs be eliminated. Blevins has reportedly asked her Democratic colleagues in the Senate NOT to support the bill. Blevins told Green Delaware a bill would be ãconfrontationalä and that she ãhas confidence in DNREC.ä Blevins knows better. She wrote to DNREC on Sept. 15, 1999: ãMr, Hansen [head of the Surface Water Discharges Section of DNREC] said that lack of funding would be a valid reason for non-compliance ... the City will forever claim a lack of funding. They have already stated clearly that correcting CSOâs is not a priority for them. ...ä Exactly. The City has belatedly filed a required ãLong Term Control Plan,ä which, again, does NOT call for eliminating the CSOs. Wilmingtonâs real intentions are shown in the six-year ãcapital programä adopted on May 25th: The City plans to spend only 1.7 percent of itâs 148 million 6-year capital program on cleaning up the Combined Sewer Overflows. Even this is, according to City officials, a ãwish listä rather than an commitment.

This disgusting, unhealthy situation will never be corrected unless the City is given a hard deadline with strong penalties for violation. (Green Delaware agrees that the State and Federal Government should contribute to paying for the solution, and we stand ready to support appropriate funding).

Another provision of the bill says that CSO elimination cannot be used as an excuse to allow increased pollution from the treatment plant. (City and State officials want to use the CSO problem as an excuse to let the City treatment plant in increase itâs own pollutant discharges into the Delaware River by 24 thousand pounds per day. This is opposed by Green Delaware, the Wilmington River-City Committee, and the New Jersey Environmental Federation. It is supported by the pathetic Delaware Sierra Club.)

The bill needs to have a penalty clause and a requirement that DNREC cannot waive the cleanup deadline.


Please contact your state Senator and Representative. Ask them to cosponsor the legislation to eliminate Combined Sewer Overflows in Delaware by January 1, 2008. Especially, please contact Senator Patricia Blevins and ask her to support the bill:

    (home) 302.994.4843
    (office Wilmington) 302.577-8542
    (office Dover) 302.739.4133
    (workÐGirls Inc.) 302.656.1697

Legislators already signed onto the bill (not all have been asked) include Dallas Winslow, Bill Oberle, Wally Caulk, Steve Amick, Deborah Capano, George Carey, Roger Roy, Charlie West, Gerry Buckworth, Vince Lofink, Dick Cathcart, John Viola, Dave Brady, Art Scott, Stephanie Ulbrich, Cathy Cloutier, Valihura, Pam Maier, Dorinda Connor, Bruce Ennis, and Joe Miro. Please thank them for their support.

Look for more details in upcoming Green Delaware News. (C) Alan Muller


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or contact
Alan J. Muller, Exec. Director
P.O. Box 69
Port Penn, DE 19731
302-834-3466 Voice
302-836-3005 FAX 

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This page was last updated on June 11, 2000.